Director, Creative Communities Program

Director, Creative Communities Program

The William Penn Foundation, a nationally recognized $3.5 billion family foundation based in Philadelphia, seeks a Director of its Creative Communities Program. With approximately $30 million in annual grantmaking, the Creative Communities Program supports organizations and projects that work to ensure people and communities across Greater Philadelphia have the opportunity to benefit from inclusive, diverse, and high-quality public spaces and arts and culture experiences.

The Director reports to the Foundation’s Chief Philanthropy Officer and oversees a lean program staff of five in pursuit of the following core strategies: Arts and Culture Hubs provides unrestricted general operating support to organizations whose missions are rooted in arts and culture and seek to achieve greater racial and economic equity in their operations and programming; Arts Education and Exposure funds in-school partnerships, for grades K-6, and community-based arts training in grades 7-12; Arts Presentation and Art Making funds high-quality arts and culture projects or programs that emphasize diverse and culturally relevant work produced in an inclusive and equitable way; Public Space Creation and Stewardship supports the creation and stewardship of high-quality, inclusive, sustainable public and community spaces; and Equitable Economic Impacts funds investments to enable public and community spaces to generate long-term, equitable economic benefits for neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia and the region.

This important role calls for a seasoned strategic thinker and a results-oriented team leader with values alignment and commitment to the Foundation’s work. Strong communication, thought leadership, and the ability to cultivate and support a thriving team are required, as is a deep, proven commitment to values of equity and inclusion. Candidates should be broadly knowledgeable about arts, culture, and public space and sensitive to the challenges of driving change in those sectors. While the direct focus of the grantmaking is regional, its influence on the field is national; the Director represents the Foundation to partners and stakeholders within the region and well beyond, including building partnerships with national and nonlocal funders and supporters.

The current Creative Communities Program design was adopted in 2021 after a two-year planning period and is now in its first phase of implementation. The new Director will play a key role in overseeing the evaluation, testing, and continual strengthening of the Program’s grantmaking strategies based on initial grantmaking experience.

The Foundation is working with the national executive search firm Isaacson, Miller on this important recruitment. All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed in confidence to the firm as indicated at the end of this document.


The William Penn Foundation (WPF) was founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas. Otto, a founding partner of the Rohm and Haas Company, had brought the small company with him from Germany to Philadelphia in 1909 and successfully grew it into a significant American corporation. Born on the North Dakota frontier, Phoebe went on to earn degrees from Vassar and Berkeley, one of the first women to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy. Originally called the Phoebe Waterman Foundation, the Foundation’s initial funding supported medical and educational institutions as well as disadvantaged children in Philadelphia. Otto left the bulk of his estate to the Foundation and Phoebe continued to make gifts to it after his death in 1960. The Haas’s two sons in turn successfully grew the family business, ultimately selling it to the Dow Chemical Company. They contributed significantly to the assets of the Foundation, establishing its regional catalytic leadership role, and themselves serving as transformative civic leaders in Philadelphia. Under their direction, the Foundation continued to work to improve the quality of life for Philadelphia’s children and families and also brought an emphasis on open green space, historic preservation, and arts and culture. In 1974, they renamed the Foundation after William Penn, the 17th century Quaker whose pursuit of an “exemplary society” had led to the establishment of Philadelphia.

Today, WPF is one of the country’s largest private foundations with over $3.5 billion in assets and approximately $150 million in annual grants. The Foundation is a vital part of the civic life in one of the country’s largest and most historic cities, with grantmaking that extends to the multi-state region that surrounds it. It continues to chart a vision consistent with its enduring focus on education, the environment, and the cultural vitality of Greater Philadelphia.

The Foundation’s current core strategies include the following:

  • Ensuring the protection and restoration of clean water in the Delaware River watershed
  • Ensuring all children have access to high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in life
  • Ensuring that people across Philadelphia and the region benefit from inclusive, diverse, and high-quality public spaces and arts and culture experiences.

A corporation composed of Haas family members governs the Foundation, along with a Board of Directors that includes both third and fourth generation family members and public directors selected for their professional and civic expertise. The Board meets quarterly to review grant recommendations presented by the Program Directors.

Since 2017 WPF has been led by Executive Director Shawn McCaney who previously served the Foundation for a decade in various program leadership roles. McCaney oversees a staff of over 40 organized under a leadership team that includes the Chief Philanthropy Officer, the Director of Program Operations and Planning, Director of Evaluation and Learning, Director of Finance and Administration, Director of Communications & External Affairs, and the Chief Investment Officer.


In 2019, WPF initiated a program-wide strategy review that resulted in a new program design that was adopted by the Foundation’s Board of Directors in the spring of 2021. The new program brings a more people-centered orientation to grantmaking—that is, greater attention to the impacts and benefits of the arts on people and their communities—and explicitly promotes greater cultural and racial equity. The Creative Communities Program seeks to support organizations and projects that work to ensure people and communities across Greater Philadelphia have the opportunity to benefit from inclusive, diverse, and high-quality public spaces and arts and culture experiences. The roll-out and implementation of the grantmaking strategies commenced in the fall of 2021 with first grant proposals anticipated to be presented to the Board in April of 2022.

The Creative Communities grantmaking guidelines are divided into three Arts and Culture strategies and two Public Space strategies:

The Arts and Culture grantmaking strategies support:

Arts and Culture Hubs
The general operations of arts and culture organizations to produce high-quality arts and culture programs and activities informed by diverse staff, boards, and audiences that build community, regional vibrancy, and achieve goals of racial and economic inclusion. Arts and Culture Hubs are defined as organizations whose missions are rooted in arts and culture and seek to achieve greater racial and economic equity in their operations and programming; have broad national, regional, or deep community importance; and generate high-quality work in terms of strong artistic skill and cultural expertise that acknowledges and reflects the participants and audiences.

Arts Education and Exposure
In-school partnerships, grades K-6, and community-based arts training, grades 7-12, that provide an entry to the arts for young people and help develop skills that reflect the cultural diversity of our communities as well as students’ own cultural and racial identities. Creative Communities will primarily fund programming focused on youth from low-income households. Though funding is primarily intended to support programming, some activities may be eligible for planning support.

Arts Presentation and Art Making
High-quality arts and culture projects or programs that emphasize diverse and culturally relevant work produced in an inclusive and equitable way. The strategy will support projects and programs of any artistic discipline geared toward greater equity of access, ensuring more people feel welcome and a part of the arts and culture experiences in our region. The strategy may also provide planning support for projects or programs in their early development stage.

The Public Spaces grantmaking strategies support:

Public Space Creation and Stewardship
The creation and stewardship of high-quality, inclusive, sustainable public and community spaces, including support for best practices related to maintenance, programming, and governance. Eligible projects include time-limited general operating support, and capital support for public/community spaces that are freely accessible to the public (e.g., hours of operation and public access periods clearly communicated) and are operated in ways that are welcoming and inclusive (e.g., through signage, programming, staffing, and other policies/practices related to accessibility and inclusion).

Equitable Economic Impacts
Investments to enable public and community spaces to generate long-term, equitable economic benefits for neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia and the region. The strategy provides support for projects that have clear and specific economic equity goals related to public and/or community spaces, even if goals are long-term and would be realized after the grant period. Funding will support, but is not limited to, the following areas: entrepreneurship, business development, employment, contracting, community land ownership, community organizing, coalition building, advocacy, policy development, and research/analysis.



The Director of the Creative Communities Program reports to the Chief Philanthropy Officer and directly oversees a team of five professionals. The Director is responsible for the Program’s approximately $30 million in annual grantmaking. In addition to overseeing ongoing grants and initiatives, as well as leading annual program planning and goal setting, the Director leads the team in identifying innovative new streams of work within the Program’s strategic framework and building strategic partnerships with regional and national funders.

The Director is the primary contact for the Foundation’s Evaluation and Learning program, and participates in external evaluation, RFP development, candidate selection, and meetings with both internal and selected external research and/or evaluation teams. The Director is the Program’s primary contact for the Foundation’s Communications department, working closely with a dedicated Communications Associate and serving as the principal spokesperson for the Foundation on behalf of the Creative Communities Program.

The Director also works with senior colleagues across the Foundation to explore cross-programmatic linkages, identify and understand overarching trends, challenges, and opportunities, and ensure successful foundation-wide operations and collaboration.

The incoming Director will have the opportunity to immediately become immersed in and bring creativity and thought leadership to the Creative Communities’ newly launched program design, playing a pivotal role in overseeing its initial implementation and possible further refinement, in collaboration with the Creative Communities team, Evaluation & Learning, Communications, Foundation Leadership, and the Board of Directors.

The key responsibilities for the Director of the Creative Communities Program include the following:

  • Oversee the implementation of Creative Communities new program design, including possible further refinement based on the experience of initial rounds of grantmaking.
  • Ensure that the Program advances work that is racially, economically, and socially inclusive and equitable.
  • Lead the Program team in developing and administering grants and initiatives and preparing quarterly briefing books for Board consideration. Represent the team and present grant recommendations at Board meetings.
  • Oversee the Program’s grant, operating, and consultant budgets.
  • Manage a select number of key grants directly and promote and model responsive and respectful relationships with grantees and partners.
  • Represent the Foundation in diverse communities, including through speaking engagements, attending conferences, participating in key meetings, and working, as appropriate, with the media.
  • Build productive, mutually reinforcing collaborations with other funders and partners regionally and nationally within the Program’s areas of interest. Convene stakeholders across sectors to drive investments and results.
  • Promote team cohesion and continued high performance and rigor. Reinforce strong collaborative relationships with colleagues across the Foundation.

The successful candidate will bring many of these professional qualifications and personal attributes:

  • Resonance with the WPF mission, values, and legacy. The highest level of personal and professional integrity.
  • 10+ years of relevant professional experience in arts, culture, and public space development, management, administration, and leadership. Breadth of experience and thought leadership is preferred over narrow, highly technical expertise. Grantmaking experience would be helpful but is not required and grant-seeking experience would also be valuable. A track record as a hands-on practitioner preferred above someone with experience only within academia.
  • Excellent strategic and intellectual abilities and analytic skills. Confidence and sound judgment. Willingness to challenge conventional thinking and take well-reasoned risks.
  • Exceptional presentation and communication skills. The ability to convey complex information clearly, crisply, and concisely to non-technical audiences both orally and in writing is highly valued.
  • Outstanding management and team-building skills, including the ability to inspire, mentor, and retain a strong staff, set clear priorities, and delegate effectively.
  • Demonstrated commitment to the values of equity, diversity, and inclusiveness. Strong interest in working in an organization that is committed to becoming fully inclusive, diverse, and equitable in its programming, personnel, policies, and practices.
  • Deep commitment to the value of authentic community engagement and respect for community stakeholders and voices and a deep respect for the grantee community and for the importance of their strong partnerships with the Foundation. Sensitivity to the power dynamic inherent in a grantmaker role.
  • Experience building and participating in successful, sustained partnerships, including cross-sector collaborations.
  • Interest in public policy, the ways outside forces impact government, and the role of media and social communications in driving change.
  • An outgoing and optimistic personality. Strong interpersonal skills to work with the full range of stakeholders.
  • The ability to work both autonomously and collegially, with limited administrative support. Excellent organizational skills including careful attention to details, deadlines, and high-quality standards.
  • Approachability, tenacity, flexibility, humility, and good humor.
  • Advanced degree in a relevant discipline preferred, as well as experience with evaluation and learning methods related to the program area.

The location for this position is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and it will be important for this individual to cultivate deep connections in the local and regional community. The search for the next Director will be national in scope. The salary for this role is $200,000.

The William Penn Foundation has retained Isaacson, Miller to assist in this search. Please direct all confidential inquiries, nominations, referrals, and applications electronically to the following:

Chloë Kanas, Managing Associate
Nella Young, Senior Associate

Isaacson, Miller

The William Penn Foundation is an Equal Opportunity Employer and strongly encourages
applications from individuals underrepresented in the philanthropic sector, including
people of color, and persons with non-traditional work and educational experience.
All who believe they meet the stated qualifications are invited to apply.